No-Bake Strawberry Cheesecake Pots

no bake strawberry cheesecake layered pots gbbo

One of my twitter followers thoughtfully asked last week if I was doing the Great Bloggers Bake Off this year – and sadly my answer was no, as I don’t have the time at the moment (which may be evident from the distinct slowdown in blog posts!)

However – it got me thinking, I have got some posts waiting to be uploaded that tie in with some of the GBBO weeks… so why not tie them in? Better to part-partake than not at all!

So the first of my posts is for Desserts Week. I loved last nights show – would love to have a go at a Windtorte at some point, and baked cheesecakes? Hello! Nadiya’s fizzy pop cheesecake stack was absolutely inspired.

This recipe is great for the summer as there are absolutely no ovens involved. That’s right, no overheating the kitchen when you’re already struggling to maintain a normal body temperature. And who doesn’t love their own little pot portion? Although one is never enough!

The glass ramekins you may recognise from a popular brand of rather amazing desserts, but any small bowls would be suitable. The recipe will make 6 of this size, adjust up or down if your containers are bigger/smaller.

gu glass ramekins re-use ideas easy no bake strawberry cheesecake

Ingredients

100g biscuits – digestive or anything else you fancy
150g cream cheese
125g greek yoghurt50g caster or granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 pack strawberry jelly
Strawberries – I used 2 medium ones per pot

Method

  • Crush the biscuits and press firmly into the base of the ramekins. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate while you prepare the middle layer.
  • Beat together the cream cheese, yoghurt, sugar, lemon and vanilla until well combined.
  • Remove the ramekins from the fridge and carefully spoon the cheese mixture onto the biscuit base. Try and avoid it splashing up the sides, especially if you have glass bowls/ramekins, as it will spoil the finished look.
  • Return to the fridge for another 30 minutes.
  • Make up the jelly according to the instructions on the packet, and set aside to cool slightly.
  • Remove any stalks from the strawberries and slice in half. Carefully press into on top of the cheese mixture, before pouring the jelly over the top.
  • Refrigerate until the jelly has set and serve as soon as you’re ready – I wouldn’t recommend making more than a day in advance as the layers will start to merge together and go a bit sticky.

pressing biscuit base into cheesecake ramekin individual pot dessert spooning cream cheese mixture into ramekin for cheesecake pots

cheesecake layer individual pots no bake strawberries set into cheesecake easy no bake recipe individal dessert pots hartleys strawberry jelly recipe idea cheesecake pots action shot pouring jelly topping onto strawberry cheesecake individual pots no bake recipe strawberry topping on easy no bake cheesecake great bloggers bake off layered strawberry cheesecake pots easy no bake recipe

Inside… crunchy, creamy, sweet and fruity all in one mouthful. I told you one wasn’t enough!

inside strawberry chesecake pots biscuit base cream cheese yoghurt fruit jelly easy recipe

You can find more about Great Bloggers Bake Off by clicking here – scroll down and there are weekly links to all the yumminess that has been made!

Mummy Mishaps
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Baked Mango Cheesecake

baked mango cheesecake served with fresh strawberries recipe and method easy gluten free dessert

A perfect summer dessert – light, fruity, and easy to make!

The recipe is similar to my other cheesecakes, but, due to the inclusion of so much fruit, doesn’t require any added sugar or yoghurt. It’s delightfully simple in terms of ingredients – once you’ve got past chopping the juicy mangoes of course.

 

Ingredients

150g plain biscuits (I used gluten-free which worked perfectly, but any ‘normal’ kind would work as well, rich tea, digestives, etc.)
30g butter
350g cream cheese
450g mango, pureed (this is around 3 medium or 2 large mangoes, ripe ones work best)
3 medium eggs

Method

– Crush the biscuits into fine breadcrumbs, and mix with the melted butter. Press firmly into the bottom of a 6-7 inch round springform or loose-bottomed tin. Put into the fridge to chill while you make the topping.
– Ensure the mango is well-pureed (or mashed), so it is smooth with no lumps, and beat together with the cream cheese.
– Add the eggs and mix until just combined – no need to beat again at this stage.
– Pour the cheesecake mixture over the base. Give the tin a few taps to ensure it settles flat and allow any air bubbles to surface.
– Bake at 150 degrees C for 45 – 60 minutes. Check back after 45 minutes, you are looking for the top to be ‘just set’ – i.e. not liquidy and fluid when you move the tin.
– Once cooked, remove the tin from the oven and carefully run a knife around the edge. As the cheesecake cools it will shrink slightly, and this will prevent it from sticking to the tin as it does so! Leave in the tin until completely cool, before gently transferring to a plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve (can be made in advance, but keep away from any strong-smelling foods in the fridge.)

There were a few cracks on my cheesecake when it came out of the oven – but a lovely vibrant yellow mango colour which I was really pleased with!

baked mango cheesecake easy recipe gluten free low fat simple dessert summer pudding

The cheesecake can be served as is – the delicate mango flavour would be overwhelmed by anything too strong in any case.

However as they were in the fridge (and to disguise the cracks!) – I added some quartered strawberries around the top and sides of mine.

gluten free mango cheesecake served with fresh british strawberry slices recipe and method

Inside – a soft, sweet, sticky cheesecake – perfect for those warm summer evenings that we’re all dreaming of!

slice of gluten free low fat baked mango cheesecake with recipe and how to

Strawberries and Cream Baked Alaska

strawberries and cream baked alaska gbbo greatbloggersbakeoff2014

This week’s #greatbloggersbakeoff2014 features something I’ve wanted to try for a while – Baked Alaska. Apparently Rob and I both had a very deprived childhood, as neither of us can recall ever having even eaten this, let alone made it. Challenge set!

One thing that struck me about this week’s GBBO program – unless I missed something – was that none of the contestants actually baked their Alaska, they just blow-torched the outside. Surely this is cheating?! I wanted to do things the proper way, and loosely followed this Mary Berry recipe, scaling down slightly for just the two of us.

Time and equipment not permitting, I must admit I didn’t make my own ice cream. We do actually own an ice-cream-making KitchenAid attachment, it was on promotion when we bought the mixer, but doesn’t actually fit in our freezer, so sits in the cupboard unused!

For the sponge base, I divided the mixture into two, and added a tablespoon of strawberry puree to one half, and half a teaspoon of vanilla to the other. Alternating spoonfuls of the mixture went into the mould, finished with a quick swirl from a cocktail stick – to give a marbled strawberry cake.

strawberry marble cake for baked alaska gbbo strawberry marble cake base for baked alaska greatbloggersbakeoff2014

Once this was cool, it was simply a case of stacking up the strawberries and ice-cream…

piling strawberries and cream for baked alaska recipe

…and covering in meringue.

meringe covering on strawberries and cream baked alaska

Simple, right? With my oven heating up itself and apparently the entire kitchen at the same time, I began to realise how the GBBO bakers had got so fraught in the tent. Trying to construct a dessert is one thing, doing it neatly quite another, and whilst the whole thing is melting at the same time – it’s really rather easy to have a complete meltdown!

Luckily everything just about held together. I’d originally planned to pipe some swirls, but lo and behold had run out piping bags, so food colouring and a paintbrush it was.

painted swirls on strawberries and cream baked alaska

A quick 10 minutes in the oven and it certainly was looking good from the outside. A perfectly crisp meringue shell, and no tell-tale signs of ice-cream puddling out.

freshly baked alaska strawberries and cream painted swirl pattern on meringue painted swirl meringue baked alaska

The moment of truth…

cutting into baked alaska moment of truth strawberries and cream design

And inside, well not bad at all I’d say! The ice cream only really started melting once it was cut and the layers looked pretty good for a first effort. A point to note that taking photos whilst making this rather technical bake is an added challenge – so sorry they’re not amazing!

inside baked alaska strawberries and cream gbbo

The taste was pretty good too – a great contrast between the crisp outer meringue, squishy inner, cold ice cream, and of course cake to finish. I’d definitely like to try it again.

Check out Jenny’s blog to see how the other bakers fared with their desserts this week.

greatbloggersbakeoff2014

Super Strawberry Swiss Roll

decorated strawberry swiss roll homemade jam recipe greatbloggersbakeoff gbbo

This week saw the return of the much-loved Great British Bake-Off, and with it, the amazing celebration of all things cake that is #GreatBloggersBakeOff2014, which you can find more details on here.

greatbloggersbakeoff2014

My first swiss roll recipe – Simple Strawberry Jam Swiss Roll , is without a doubt the most popular post on this blog. For why, I simply don’t know, but am certainly not complaining!

However simple is not always sufficient – and for this GBBO I wanted to ramp things up a bit. I’ve wanted to try a piped design roll for a while, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Add to this homemade strawberry jam – why do things by half – and you can see why this really is a super swiss roll!

To start with – the jam, so it has time to cool. We are right in the middle of British strawberry season and there are lots of brilliant juicy fruits in the shops at the moment.

fresh british strawberries

Strawberry jam
300g fresh strawberries, hulled
100g sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

– Chop the strawberries – I found quartering gave good chunky pieces in the jam, without them being too overbearing in the sponge

fresh british quartered strawberries jam recipe
– Mix the strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar in a heavy bottomed pan, and put on a low heat until the sugar has melted
– Turn the heat up to medium/high, and set the timer for 10 minutes. The mixture should foam and bubble up; stir often and monitor the heat so it doesn’t boil over

fresh strawberry jam recipe great british summer bake off
– When the ten minutes is nearly up, start testing to see if the jam has reached setting point. This is 105 degrees C on a jam/sugar thermometer, or you can use the wrinkle-test , using pre-frozen saucers to test if it sets.
– If it’s not setting, boil for a couple more minutes and test again. As a last resort you can some more lemon juice to boost the pectin levels.
– Once at setting point, take off the heat and pour into a bowl. Leave to cool whilst you make the sponge.

Swiss roll sponge (with piped strawberry decorations)
3 large eggs
125g sugar
125g plain flour

– Put the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and beat on high for up to 10 minutes, until the mixture goes from pale and yellow to light, white, and about double in size
(KitchenAid optional… but it really does help!)

kitchenaid swiss roll recipe whisking eggs and sugar

kitchenaid whisked eggs and sugar light and fluffy for swiss roll recipe greatbloggersbakeoff

– Whilst the eggs are beating, prepare your tray. An ordinary baking tray (with sides) is more than sufficient.
– Brush the edges and bottom of the tin with oil or melted butter.
– Cut baking or greaseproof paper precisely to size, it should be completely flat
– Brush the paper with more oil/butter, and sprinkle well with flour and sugar, to prevent any sticking

greased lined floured sugared baking tin for swiss roll no special pan needed

– Sieve the flour and gently fold into the egg mixture.

folding flour into swiss roll recipe

– To make the strawberry decorations, take 3 teaspoons of the mixture, and colour one orange, one red, and one green.
– Using small piping bags, pipe green leaves, orange seeds and fill round with red strawberry shapes

piped strawberrries for swiss roll recipe

– Bake for 2 minutes at 180 degrees, so the strawberries set and don’t mix with the rest of the batter

baked strawberries from swiss roll mixture decorated recipe

– Take the tray out of the oven and let it cool for a couple of minutes.
– Spread the rest of the batter evenly across the tray, and return to the oven, for 8-10 minutes, at 180 degrees

swiss roll batter in flat tray recipe and how to step by step easy dessert

– After 8 minutes, test to see if the sponge is done by lightly pressing with your fingers. If it springs back, it’s done; if your fingerprints remain indented, return to the oven for another minute

– When it’s ready, run a knife around the edge of the tin, before flipping out onto another baking sheet, sprinkled with a good layer of sugar. I put my baking sheet on top of a damp tea towel which helps stop the swiss roll from cracking

swiss roll tray bake ready to roll with hand piped strawberry decorations

– Using another baking sheet (and I used a chopping board for support), flip the swiss roll over so the decorated side is face down
– Working quickly, whilst it’s still hot, spread the jam all across the cake

homemade strawberry jam spread on swiss roll recipe for greatbloggersbakeoff

– Using the greaseproof paper to help, carefully, and as tightly as possible, roll up the cake

rolling super strawberry jam swiss roll recipe and how to

– Once all rolled up, wrap the greaseproof paper around and tuck in the ends. Leave to cool for at least half an hour before unwrapping and tucking in!

wrapped up swiss roll homemade cooling and setting gbbo super strawberry swiss roll recipe and hand piped decorations

I was really happy with the way the strawberries turned out!

decorated strawberry swiss roll with homemade jam gbbo

super strawberry swiss roll

And the roll itself – Paul and Mary would be impressed – a good swirl, even filling…

strawberry swiss roll tightly rolled homemade jam gbbo

Certainly not simple but stunning and delicious – a good first show-stopper to start the series!
And the best thing about a swiss roll, it’s still fat-free, and with all those strawberries must surely count as one of your five a day 😉

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Strawberry Swirl Meringues

strawberry swirl meringue nests perfect for afternoon tea cake stand topper

Here is the second recipe from my Birthday Afternoon Tea – I can’t believe it was two weeks ago already!

These little meringues are so easy to make, perfectly bite-sized and a great light little addition to any afternoon tea.

A perfect outing for my KitchenAid Christmas present, (I’m still totally in love!), which whipped up the meringue mixture in no time. I used a simple recipe of 2 egg whites and 110g caster sugar, having always had great success without adding extras (cream of tartar etc.) that some recipes suggest.

The KitchenAid foamed up the egg whites in no time:

black kitchenaid easy to mix meringues recipe

Before slowly adding the sugar to a thick, glossy mixture.

meringue mixture glossy soft peaks black kitchenaid stand mixer

To get the swirl effect in the meringue nests, I simply painted a few thick stripes of gel food colouring down the insides of my piping bag, before filling with the meringue mixture.
Using a round nozzle I then piped thick swirls of the mixture onto a baking sheet. I’d highly recommend a silicon baking sheet for meringues as they have such a tendency to stick to anything else.

red swirl meringues recipe and method piping colour stripes nests

red swirl striped colour meringue recpie

Just before baking I pressed the top peaks down with a wet finger, creating the well that strawberries would eventually sit in.

I prefer dry, crunchy meringue, so baked mine at 130 degrees for about 40 minutes. Turning the oven off, I then left them overnight to completely dry out.

red swirl meringue nests for strawberry base easy dessert recipe

The next day they were ready to use straight away – and looked perfect atop one of the many cake stands for afternoon tea.

red piped swirl meringue nests on top of cake stand afternoon tea easy recipe

A simple half-strawberry in each (cut-side up, so the moisture didn’t ruin the meringue), and they were the perfect addition to the tea table!

home afternoon tea birthday party chocolate brownie bites strawberry swirl meringues finger sandwiches

And whilst my birthday may be over for another year, there are lots of exciting plans in place for friends and family celebrations in the next couple of months. All accompanied by cake, of course!

Birthday Afternoon Tea Party

Ah yes, the week of my birthday, where, once again, friends and family gather to eat their own body weight in cake. There is a definite theme to all my birthday presents and the respective celebrations at which they are received – cake, cake, and more CAKE! Take for example this amazing 3d patisserie card – will definitely be finding a permanent home for this little lovely in my kitchen.

patisserie 3d birthday card cake lover

This year Rob and I hosted a birthday afternoon tea at home; we moved house in September and still love our new bolthole, as today proved it’s perfect for parties!

A windy Sunday afternoon in Derbyshire didn’t deter the party goers, and we made sure the house was well decked out for an afternoon tea party – balloons, banners, and of course bunting, zig-zagging across the hallway. I’m wondering how long I can get away with having this up for, the cats seem to have designs on pulling it down though…

pastel bunting and cats hosting traditional afternoon tea party at home

Starting with sandwiches, served with champagne, we tucked in to the veritable feast in front of us.

birthday afternoon tea champagne sandwiches and cake

afternoon tea party at home derbyshire happy birthday

Enjoyed freshly baked from the oven, delicious fruit scones made by Al…

afternoon tea party freshly baked scones

… and topped with home-made (by t’other Jen) blackcurrant jam, and whipped cream. Yum!

afternoon tea party fresh scones with homemade blackcurrant jam and whipped cream

Offerings from my kitchen included strawberry swirl meringues, and gluten-free brownie bites (both recipes now posted & linked up!) home afternoon tea birthday party chocolate brownie bites strawberry swirl meringues finger sandwiches

And and experiment with one of my brilliant birthday presents, a cake pop maker, little white kitty cat cake pops! They are not my finest work of art but not a bad testament to my battle with the evil that is candy melts.

kitty cat cake pops white chocolate candy melt birthday party ideas pink glitter sugar ears

cat cake pop white chocolate in place of a nose birthday party fun

And what else could you finish a birthday party with, other than a big sticky birthday cake?!

birthday girl blowing out candles afternoon tea party

Made by the lovely Jen this was one brilliant birthday cake:

chocolate swirl birthday cake with candles

– that just got better and better when I cut inside. Look at the chocolate checkerboard!

checkerboard chocolate happy birthday cake

Some more fun and games…

fun and games birthday afternoon tea party host at home derbyshire

… before waving guests off with full tummies and little party bags! Who doesn’t love a party bag, at any age?

mini afternoon tea party bags chocolate freddo cat toy

Thanks to all my lovely guests for a great afternoon, helping to make (and demolish) all the yummy food, and of course my fabulous presents! All that remains now is for me to get baking and start using some of them…

Strawberry & White Chocolate 30th Birthday Speed Sign Cake

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Wow, that’s one helluva name for a cake! One of my best friends asked if I would make a cake for his brother’s 30th birthday party at the weekend. He even knew what he wanted – a 30 speed sign as the naughty boy had been caught speeding a few weeks ago!

I decided this wasn’t going to be a plain cake – I wanted another case of what’s on the outside reflecting what’s on the inside, so red – strawberry, and white – white chocolate of course!

Using the same original recipe as my Tardis cake (this one from allrecipes), I adapted slightly to replace some of the sugar with strawberry jam for an extra fruity flavour. My only regret is that I just used the jam we had in the fridge, I wish I’d bought a more expensive one with higher fruit content to really boost the strawberry taste.

Ingredients

  • 220g butter
  • 100g strawberry jam
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • 4 eggs
  • 375g plain flour + 1 extra tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 200g white chocolate, broken into small chunks
  • 180g dried strawberries (I use Urban Fruit which you can buy from most supermarkets)

I was going to cut the strawberries into smaller pieces, but actually liked their big, chunky texture alongside the chunks of white chocolate:

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Method

  • Cream together the butter, sugar, jam and vanilla until light and fluffy
  • Beat in the eggs, with a spoonful or so of flour to the curdling
  • Sieve and fold in the remainder of the flour and the baking powder
  • Mix the strawberries and the white chocolate, coat in the tablespoon of flour, and lightly mix into the batter (don’t over-stir)
  • Pop into your tin and bake for 60-90 minutes at 180 degrees. Timing is very dependent on your oven, size and shape of tin, etc, so after an hour check back every 10 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out relatively clean. Remember there will be melted white chocolate so it won’t be completely clean, you just want it to be free of cake batter/dough

I opted to slice mine in two (once cool), so I could add a filling to the middle.

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Look at all the chocolate and strawberries! Yum yum!

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Filled with vanilla cream cheese icing…

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…and then completely covered.

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Finally I got chance to try out my new silicon mat, after months of lusting I finally made it to Ikea to get one, thanks to the lovely Emma’s recommendation. How cute is it, especially that little knife with the heart shaped end! And such a bargain, perfect for rolling out fondant.

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Because I needed a really bright red for the speed sign, I cheated and bought some pre-coloured fondant/ready-to-roll icing. 3x 250g packs were more than enough, and I have a sneaky plan for the leftovers already… 🙂

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Boy how I underestimated that little heart-shaped knife! It was a one-stop-wonder for tucking and chopping the fondant under the bottom of the cake. It made finishing the edges so wondrously easy!

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Next up, for the white inner of the sign, I scouted around my kitchen for something that would be the right size of circle, and this saucepan lid fitted the bill perfectly.

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For the 30 numbers, I simply coloured some black fondant (using chocolate fondant to start with so I was halfway there already), and cut around some letters I’d printed off to the right size.

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Finally, how could I resist, a finishing of edible glitter!

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The finished cake:

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And, being such a monster of a cake, we even managed to fit 30 candles on top!

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Simple Strawberry Jam Swiss Roll

strawberry jam and buttercream swiss roll simple recipe sugared glass reflection artistic

Swiss roll is not something that I’ve made before, or had a huge desire too. But, I had to make dessert for dinner at a friends last night, and oddly enough had a dream my mum was teaching me to make a swiss roll (albeit a chocolate one) – well, simple things please simple minds, my decision was made!

On further investigation it turns out to be a delightfully simple dessert, quick and easy to make (less than hour from packets to plate) and so few ingredients! Would you believe the sponge is actually made without butter… so you could class it as fat-free or certainly low-fat. I vamped mine up a bit with some buttercream but the jam alone would have been more than sufficient.

The basic ingredients are as simple as follows: (adapted from Channel 4 recipe)

3 large eggs
125g caster sugar
125g plain flour
Approx 1/3 jar of jam to fill

swiss roll ingredients recipe fat free strawberry jam eggs sugar plain flour

The method itself is also very simple – and vastly helped by having a stand mixer. If you haven’t a hand-held electric mixer would work but I wouldn’t recommend doing it all by hand unless you’re feeling very, very strong….

The eggs and sugar need to be beaten together on a high-speed for about 10 minutes, until they go from yellow and liquid…

kitchen stand mixer breville beating eggs and sugar for swiss roll recipe

… to thick, pale, light and around double the volume:

beaten eggs and sugar increased in volume and pale using stand mixer swiss roll recipe

If you are lucky enough to have a stand mixer (one of the best investments (ok presents from Rob) I’ve ever had, mine is a Breville and was only £50 from Tesco – unbelievably 2 years later it’s actually gone down in price and is now £44!) – then prepare your baking tray while the eggs and sugar are whisking. If not it doesn’t really matter if you have to let the mix set a few minutes once it’s made.

I really don’t see why you’d want to buy a special swiss roll tin. As you can see mine was an ordinary baking tray and turned out more than fine! The tray itself needs to be prepared as follows:

– oil the tray itself, base and sides (a pastry brush helps)
– place in some greaseproof paper, perfectly cut to size (even the rounded corners)
– oil the greaseproof paper, again with the pastry brush
– sprinkle well with sugar and flour

greased lined floured sugared baking tin for swiss roll no special pan needed

Back to the cake mixture – once your eggs and sugar are a good, dense volume, and leave thick trails when you pick up the whisk, it’s onto the flour. Simply sieve this and fold in slowly and gently with a metal spoon, so as not to destroy too much of the precious air your whisking has created.

sieving sifting flour action shot fold with metal spoon swiss roll recipe

Once well-mixed (and make sure it is or it will not bake evenly), carefully pour or spoon into the tin. As it needs to spread out over a large surface area, try to pour or spoon as evenly as possible. Smooth into the corners and flatten as gently and carefully as possible, remember it is a very aerated mixture.

swiss roll mixture in tin flattened spread with spatula

Bake at 180 – 200 degrees for about 8 minutes. Check it after this time as you don’t want it to over cook (or it may crack). The sponge should be light and springy when gently pressed. If your fingers leave dents then give it another minute.

While baking – another step of preparation. This time a damp tea towel (mine had just come out the wash), covered with a large piece of greaseproof paper (bigger than your tin), and doused in sugar. I don’t think mine had enough sugar at this stage as it did stick a little to the paper on rolling – so be generous!

swiss roll prepared baking sheet sugared on damp baking towel for cooling and rolling

As soon as the sponge is baked, take it out of the oven and work quickly! Run a sharp knife around the edge and ready…

baked swiss roll cake turning out onto sugared baking sheet

…flip! Turn it out firmly and quickly onto the prepared tea towel / baking sheet.

swiss roll freshly baked cake base ready to roll up

Remove the greaseproof paper backing that the sponge baked on. The oil/flour/sugar preparation should ensure it comes away smoothly and cleanly without tearing off any of the cake.

Trim the sides of the cake so the whole sponge is a clean rectangle, this will give your sides a good finished look as well. (Hint – the trimmed sides are a great taste test!)

trimming swiss roll sides for neat edges sponge cake fat free

If you are just using jam then you can skip this next cooling stage and you can go straight to jam. As I was using buttercream the sponge needed to cool first so the buttercream didn’t separate and melt when spread on.

Regardless of whether you are cooling or jamming, the cake needs to be rolled while it is still warm to prevent it cracking, so work quickly!

To allow mine to cool I placed another sheet of greaseproof paper in the middle, then gently used the tea towel and lower piece of paper to guide the sponge into a firm, tight roll. The dampness of the tea towel will also help prevent the sponge from cracking.

rolling swiss roll cake with greaseproof paper inner to cool and fill with buttercream

Once fully rolled, I tucked the end underneath and left the sponge to cool. Ok it’s very cold at the moment in our kitchen but it really didn’t take long to cool – perhaps 10 minutes.

In this time I made my buttercream. I only wanted quite a thin layer so used a mix of 50g butter to 110g icing sugar. This made quite a stiff icing, which spread on the cake but wasn’t too gooey too ooze out everywhere.

Once the cake was cool (you can tell just by gently putting your hand round the rolled tea towel), I very gently unwrapped and unrolled the sponge, before spreading with the buttercream and jam.

swiss roll sponge spread with buttercream and strawberry jam

The rolling was a little more tricky (and sticky!) when there was jam involved, and actually I seemed to have over-jammed, as I ended up with a tidal wave of strawberry near the end (sorry for the blurry action shot!).

I quickly scooped this off with a spoon so the end had only a very thin spread of jam, meaning it stuck well but didn’t ooze out everywhere.

rolling swiss roll action shot oozing strawberry jam

Once rolled, sit the swiss roll seam-side down and leave to rest for a little while. Gravity and jam alone will keep the roll tightly stuck together.

rolled finished swiss roll leaving to sit seam side down

And to finish – nothing more than a good sprinkle of sugar over the top:

sugared decoration on swiss roll finishing touches simple easy recipe

The finished product! I was very impressed by my “inspired” choice of dessert – thanks mum… in a roundabout way – and hopefully my friends were too. It is exceptionally good on its own but we had ours after Sunday dinner with lashings of custard – diplomatically and in a way that only good friends could, skipping small ‘polite’ slices and cutting it straight into quarters at the off!

strawberry jam and buttercream swiss roll simple fat free sponge low-fat recipe

Nanny’s 80th Birthday Cake

Yesterday was my maternal grandma’s 80th birthday. Known to her 7 grandchildren as Nanny, this was a celebration that deserved a very special cake!

I bought a new tin to make the numbers – but it will come in useful for years to come. An alphabet tin, it is divided into 28 equal segments, and comes with 12 square blocks which fit in to make any letter or number you need. It comes with instructions for each, and you can either make large figures, the whole height of the tin, or slightly smaller, using 2/3 of the tin, as I have here. You can buy this amazing alphabet and number tin over on Amazon.

The blocks simply slot into the pre-cut groves so they won’t move around when you add your cake mix.

Because the blocks fit together so tightly, there’s not really a need to line the cake tin. There was almost no seepage (perhaps a drip or two) in any of the 4 cakes I made. I did, of course, use a very generous spray of cake release, being sure to get into all the corners so none of the shape would stick.

For the cake itself, my grandma had requested sponge cake, and I chose to use a madeira cake recipe. It uses exactly the same ingredients and method as victoria sponge, but in different ratios, resulting in a firmer, more robust cake, better for shaping and covering in fondant. The recipe I used was this one from the BBC – it worked so perfectly that I have re-listed it here. I omitted the lemon as my flavouring was to come later!

I really wasn’t sure how much cake the tin would take – but this recipe was perfect for 2 cakes of each number – about an 1.5 inches high each – which were then to be sandwiched together.

Madeira Cake

Ingredients

– 175g butter
– 175g caster sugar
– 3 medium eggs
– 250g self raising flour
– 2-3 tbsp milk

Method

– beat together the butter and sugar until lightly and fluffy
– add the eggs, milk, and 2 tablespoons of flour, beating again
– sieve in the rest of the flour and fold until well-mixed
– transfer to the tin and bake at 170 degrees centigrade until the top is golden, and a skewer comes out clean when inserted. The timing will depend on what size and shape of cake tin you use. Mine took around 18 minutes per cake. If you’re making one large cake it would be around 30 minutes.

NB – in order to have flat cakes after baking, I used a spatula to push the mixture up the sides of the pan, and create a gully in the middle all around the shape. As the cake rises most in the middle, this means the end result is an even flat cake all the way around.

I had wanted to sandwich the cakes together with jam and buttercream, but a quick test and it was quickly apparent that the jam would be too liquid in the centre and the two halves would be sliding all over the place when I came to ice them. S0 – I created myself a new recipe!

Strawberry Jam Buttercream

Ingredients

– 50g butter
– 100g strawberry jam
– 200g icing sugar

Method

– beat together all the ingredients until smooth
– try and resist sampling a bite!

This recipe was a sufficient quantity to fill and crumb coat both cakes.

The kitchen was what I’d called cake-a-geddon at this point – having made 4 cakes (two 8’s and two 0’s), there was cake and buttercream on pretty much every surface!

Then it was onto the fondant – I have to admit I called in Rob’s help here, as I couldn’t be having any cracks! I’d bought some pre-coloured fondant in hobbycraft the week before – as the cake would need to much, and there was already so much going on in the kitchen, I decided buying ready-coloured would make life much easier at this point.

We did use all 5 packs, but after trimming ended up with about a pack spare which I wrapped carefully to use another time. Because I wanted the cake to be perfect, it was easier to use thicker fondant to cover the large shapes, as it was much less likely to crack.

We started off by covering the sides of the holes – the easiest way was to cut a strip of fondant, roll it up, then gently push into the corners of the shape.

Then, when the whole sheet of fondant was laid over the top and trimmed, it left only a little join…

…which was easily smoothed down with a little trex (white vegetable fat).

Quite some time later, both cakes were (relatively) smoothly covered in fondant, and ready to decorate.

To decorate, I made 3 more colours of fondant – yellow, purple, and red – cutting flowers in 3 different sizes. I imprinted circles in the centre of each flower, added a dab of icing, then filled with pastel coloured sugar sprinkles.

Finally, I added some gold soft pearls (readily available in the supermarket and won’t break your teeth like silver dragees do!), creating lines of the little dots across the 2 cakes.

A quick spritz of gold shimmer spray, and the cake was complete. I meant to pop it onto the scales but didn’t have time before we left for the birthday lunch – safe to say it was rather hefty!

The birthday lady absolutely loved her cake – even if it did take a little while to blow out the 20 candles!

Inside the strawberry buttercream looked great, and yes the icing was quite thick, but surely this was the best bit 🙂
One cake easily fed all the family, leaving plenty for Nanny to share with her friends and neighbours and finish celebrating this great birthday.

Easy-Peasy Pavlova – Red Berry with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Last Friday my parents and grandma came over for dinner. I needed a dessert that could mostly be prepared ahead, didn’t require much cooking on the night (as I’d be working all day), and was quite light – to follow a big course of fish and chips!

Still having a lot of eggs left and after a big success a few weeks ago – meringue seemed like the perfect solution.

So the pavlova idea came about – and I didn’t know it originated in New Zealand. As complicated it as it may seem, it really only takes 4 very simple steps.

1. Giant meringue

To make this size of meringue, i used 4 egg whites and 200g of caster sugar. You can see method I used, as before, here.

To bake, I drew around a large dinner plate on a sheet of greaseproof to give me a rough idea of the shape to make into, and gave it a quick spray with cake-release (I’d really recommend this, the paper will literally fall off the meringue after baking, otherwise it can be a bit tricky and your meringue may end up breaking).

I spooned the meringue mixture into shape, using a spatula to create a rim near the edge in which the rest of the ingredients would sit.

It baked in the oven at 140 degrees celsius for an hour, after which I switched the oven off and left the meringue in to completely cool overnight. Again I’d recommend this – because of the moist toppings, you really want a crunchy, crispy meringue base.

When you take it out of the oven, don’t be tempted to put it in the fridge. This will make it go soft. Instead leave it in the oven if you’re not using it, keep it in an airtight container, or, failing all else, carefully out it onto a plate and cover with a clean, dry tea towel, storing somewhere cool.

2. Whipped cream

I found a 300ml pot of double cream was the perfect amount for this size of pavlova. It took about 3-4 minutes to whip, using my stand mixer on a high speed.

If you wanted to make a lower fat version, an alternative such as creme fraiche or even yoghurt would still work well.

3. Fresh fruit

Take your pick! Whatever is in season, or anything else you fancy! Bananas, kiwis, cherries… Anything would work really. I used a big pile of fresh (hulled) strawberries and raspberries.

4. Dark chocolate ganache (optional)

A big thank you to Moo’s Pantry for teaching me that ganache doesn’t have to be made with cream.

For this I melted 75g dark chocolate with 20g butter, then in a separate pan boiled 75ml semi-skimmed milk with 50g caster sugar. Once the milk and sugar mix was boiling, I poured over the chocolate and butter mix, stirred well, and boiled for another 1-2 minutes.

By making this before I served the main course, it had time to cool and thicken slightly before I assembled the dessert.

Assembly is just as simple, everything in the order above, no need for neatness, patterns etc, just pile it all up! Add the ganache just before you serve so guests can see it running down the fruit and meringue as it’s cut.

I gave Rob the slightly daunting task of cutting it up without the meringue breaking – and he did a pretty great job (using a cake slice to take the pieces out helped a lot).

It was met with a Round of approval yums and wows… And between the 5 f us, was quickly demolished!